Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Barsoom + d20 Modern = Cool!

Adamant Entertainment recently had a sale on DriveThruRPG in which they were selling pdfs of some of their titles for one freakin' dollar! Normally, I wouldn't give any of their publications a second glance, but hey, one freakin' dollar! Now, Adamant Entertainment is best known for their ICONS superhero game, but my interest in the supers genre is so low that even one freakin' dollar is too much to pay, but I did notice another of their games, namely Mars, a sword-and-planet game loosely based on the "Barsoom" stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I confess I've never read any of the Barsoom stories. Truth be told, I've never been a fan of the "planetary romance" style of pulp sci-fi, having cut my teeth on the works of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Herbert, rather than Burroughs, Brackett and Howard. Lately, however, I've become a bit more interested in all that creaky old stuff, having become creaky and old myself. Besides, it was one freakin' dollar!

Mars uses the d20 Modern game system, one of my favourites. Damn, why didn't someone tell me about this earlier? There are six races, Red Men (civilized, native Martians), Green Men (savage, orc-like barbarians), White Apes (intelligent, war-like gorillas), Grey Men (not men at all, but rather octopoids), Synthe Men (androids) and Earthmen (humans from Earth transplanted on Mars). Most PCs will be Red Men and Earthmen, although PC White Apes and Green Men are also possible. Synthe Men and especially Grey Men do not make suitable player characters. Most everything in the rules is taken straight from d20 Modern except for how they treat the Defense Value, which is handled in a clever and superior manner to the standard d20 approach. The defending character decides as a free action if he will be parrying or dodging. Since the former is based on STR and the latter on DEX, a PC will typically choose whichever is better, although ranged attacks cannot be parried, so dodge is the only option in such cases. Each character class has an inherent parry and dodge bonus that is added to the ability modifier to give a total bonus for each type of defense. Armour does not factor into it, although heavy armour will seriously penalize DEX and even place a cap on BAB. In Mars, armour provides damage reduction, rather than an armour bonus. This is the first time I've seen this approach in a d20 game and I must say, I like it a lot. This rule change alone makes me want to play this game.

Magic is not part of this game, although it is suggested that the psionics rules from d20 Modern would be a good fit. Still, they do include rules for creating weird technology, called devices, which function very much like magic items. It would be interesting to see how these would stack up against magic in a campaign setting that incorporated both.

All in all, Mars is a pleasant surprise and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have an aversion to the d20 game system (and there is a Savage Worlds version if you do). Take up your rapier and your radium pistol, your sky-corsair awaits. Unfortunately, you will have to pay more than one freakin' dollar.



Sovereigneternal said...

I was actually very disappointed with this book. The great bulk of it is just a reprint of the D20 Modern SRD: classes, skills, feats, advanced classes, etc. The page count for Mars/Barsoom-specific content was quite small, and none of it struck me as unique or insightful. A little wiki-research and an imaginative look at the Monster Manual (Girallon, Xill) would do just as well.
The Parry/Dodge defense system is very much like True20 and OGL Conan. Armor-as-DR is also used in the Star Wars Revised Core Rules (I don't mean Saga).

But $1 is $1 so I don't blame you.

Rognar said...

I didn't realize the Parry/Dodge system was used in True20. I think I may give that system a look.

Jay said...

I picked this one up a while back and I'm a big fan as well. I'm less interested in the system itself then using it as supplementary setting material and inspiration.